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Digital learning: The future of workplace DNA

E-learning is still regarded as an easy way to deliver uninspiring training courses to a mass audience at low cost. That’s no longer the case, argues IWFM Awards judge, David Sharp, MD of International Workplace

Vocational training is essential to the personal development of workers, the success of businesses, and the strength of the economy. It is particularly important to the workplace and FM sector, which employs up to 10 per cent of the UK’s workforce, and in 2017 was responsible for as much as eight per cent of the country’s GDP.   

Yet the findings of a Social Mobility Commission report in January 2019 highlight some major concerns.

Since 2010, spending on training by the UK government has decreased, employer funding has stayed flat, and spending on vocational training per employee is half the EU average.

Employers are also prioritising highly-qualified workers in senior positions over skills development. 

 E-learning can play a tremendous role in helping government and businesses to address the adult skills gap, to improve social mobility and boost UK productivity. 

Yet, for an industry that specialises in outsourcing its expertise – to deliver improved performance to its clients – the e-learning opportunity appears to be spurned by facilities management employers. 

The market for digital learning has moved on rapidly in the last three years, but take-up by employers is holding it back in the FM sector. Some learning and development professionals have not kept pace with changes in technology and practice (or their employers don’t regard this as a specialist area). 

What’s changed? There has been a shift from training (manager-led, push activity) to learning (employee-led, pull activity). 

The push approach is about managers specifying courses, enrolling people and chasing them to complete them, and reporting on progress and completion. Learner performance is measured in terms of course completion (not yet started, in progress, or completed) and course results (score, or passed / failed). 

Unsurprisingly, measurements like this do little to address the central question: did anyone really learn anything? Without knowing the answer to this, how can you know if your investment is helping you to upskill your workforce, manage compliance, or improve productivity? 

The pull approach is about giving employees access to learning resources, using machine learning to evaluate engagement continuously, and steering people to build knowledge in areas where they are weak or that are important to your business. It’s more efficient, and more effective. 

Digital learning is perfectly suited to this. It’s powerful. It asks whether people’s behaviour has changed as a result of gaining new knowledge; it addresses the impact of their learning on the organisation; and it constantly tests and rebuilds the DNA of the learner and the organisation. It requires much less human intervention on the part of managers, who can use exception reporting to focus their energies on the small number of people and issues that really matter. 

Are you still talking about courses, enrolments, scores, pass rates and fails? If so, you might find things have come a long way from the 40-minute e-learning courses you’re used to – and you and your employees have everything to gain from the latest generation of digital learning solutions.



About Sarah OBeirne


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